Education policy in the states is related to fundamental democratic values of fairness and equity. As such, it often sparks lively debates in regard to the appropriate distribution of state and local resources. While states retain a high degree of flexibility in shaping education policy, there are a number of factors and constraints they must contend with. These include national economic conditions, national policy goals, political actors at the state and federal level, administrative departments at the state level, interest groups, and local debates over the appropriate use of property taxes.
The ability to be innovative in providing public education explains why states and localities differ in their methods of securing financial resources and why different educational standards are emphasized from state to state. In meeting such standards, however, states also must be cognizant of the national educational standards.
The standards movement of the 1980s and 1990s has been revived with the No Child Left Behind Act. Controversy over funding for the act has led to renewed battles within and among states, and between states and the federal government, over the appropriate role of government in providing free and public education.